Summary: A Corporate, Intimate, Reverent Prayer.
SOME THOUGHTS ON THE LORD’S PRAYER
In the expression, “When you (all) pray” (Matthew 6:7), Jesus assumes that His disciples (in all ages) WILL pray. A prayer-less Christian is like a man or a woman who does not speak to their nearest and dearest! Can you imagine it?
The word translated “vain repetitions” (K.J.V.) does not forbid repetition, for even Jesus used repetition in the Garden of Gethsemane (cf. Matthew 26:44). The emphasis must then fall on the word “vain” - perhaps ‘empty phrases’ would be a better translation? The picture then is of somebody heaping up words in an attempt to impress God and gain His attention (cf. Ecclesiastes 5:2-3).
“Therefore be not like them,” warns Jesus; “for your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask” (Matthew 6:8; cf. Matthew 6:32). All our desire and our sighing is not hidden from God (cf. Psalm 38:9; Exodus 2:23). Before we ask, He has answered, and while we are still speaking, He has heard (cf. Isaiah 65:24). So we need be anxious for nothing but should make our prayers known to God with thanksgiving (cf. Philippians 4:6).
Again, repetition is permitted in the presentation of the Lord’s Prayer in Luke’s Gospel: ‘When you (all) pray, say…’ (cf. Luke 11:2). Here in Matthew’s Gospel, however, the Prayer is presented as a model: “In this manner, therefore, pray…” (Matthew 6:9). Both are therefore allowable.
The Lord’s Prayer is, first of all, corporate: we pray to “Our” Father (Matthew 6:9) with the awareness that we are praying in community with everyone in every place and every time who has ever or will ever pray this prayer.
Second, it is an intimate prayer, where God is our “Father” (cf. John 20:17). This, too, is deeply personal, not just some vague acknowledgement of the so-called ‘Universal Fatherhood of God’. Just like Jesus (cf. Mark 14:36), we can address God as ‘Abba’ (cf. Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6).
Third, it is a reverent prayer. We acknowledge that God is “in heaven”, and we upon earth (cf. Ecclesiastes 5:2). So we praise (hallow) His Name. Of course, His Name is already holy, so we add nothing to Him: but we must surely desire as He desires, that His Name should not be profaned among the Gentiles (cf. Ezekiel 36:21-23)?
When we pray for the coming of God’s kingdom (Matthew 6:10), we are asking for the advancement of His kingdom of grace and that He would gather to Himself the full number of His people. We are praying that He would continue to build His Church, and for the hastening of His kingdom of glory: ‘Even so, come, Lord Jesus’ (cf. Revelation 22:20).
When we submit, “Thy will be done” (cf. Psalm 40:8) we are joining Jesus at Gethsemane, who delights to do God’s will (cf. Matthew 26:42). “In earth as it is in heaven” also includes a commitment, that we should seek to know His will, obey His will, and submit to His will.
When we pray, “Give US this day” (Matthew 6:11), we are again reminded that is not just ‘my’ bread, but we pray with an awareness of others’ needs also. “Bread” is simply staple food, whatever it is. But it also comes to represent spiritual food: the bread of the word of God; Jesus as the bread of life (cf. John 6:35); the bread of Communion; and the bread of the kingdom of God (cf. Luke 14:15).
“And forgive us our debts” (Matthew 6:12) reminds us of our colossal debt of sin, remitted at the Cross of Jesus. Having been forgiven so much, we will want to be forgiving towards others. This does not mean that we earn forgiveness by our forgiving spirit, but rather that if we are unforgiving then we cannot claim to have been truly repentant (Matthew 6:14-15; cf. Matthew 18:32-33).
“And lead us not into temptation” - or hard testing (Matthew 6:13). Of course, ‘Jesus was ‘led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil’ (cf. Matthew 4:1), but God tempts no man (James 1:13). However, we are to ‘count it all joy’ when we fall into various temptations (or trials) because ‘the trying of our faith works patience’ (James 1:2-3).
“But deliver us from evil (or the Evil One).” We can be reassured that we will not be tempted or tested beyond that which we are able: and with every temptation there is THE Way of escape: Jesus (John 14:6).
The doxology of the prayer is a succinct statement of faith (cf. 1 Chronicles 29:11-13).